Landon Donovan knows the future is coming for his status as the best U.S. men’s soccer player ever. Time never stops, and nothing has made that more clear than watching the World Cup as a fan or without his home nation to capture his rooting interest for the first time since he was a teenager.
Donovan wasn’t part of the group that ultimately failed to beat Trinadad and Tobago and missed qualification for this year’s World Cup in Russia. But like fellow USMNT legend Tim Horward, he’s feeling the sting of disappointment just like everyone else. The national team is at a crossroads of sorts, and Donovan agrees the best direction for the team to take is by going young.
The former Everton and LA Galaxy forward has reason to be optimistic about the future of soccer in America, both for the national team and the soccer in the nation itself. The World Cup is coming to North America in 2026, soccer continues to grow in popularity, and a young crop of players have the chance to take the reigns of the sport stateside.
Donovan talked with Uproxx on the day the World Cup kicked off in Russia with the host nation facing Saudi Arabia. He spoke about his time in Mexico and how it’s framed this World Cup, a tournament where he also wants to see Mexico do well. He explained why supporting CONCACAF teams is important, what it means to host the 2026 tournament, and gave his favorite story about scoring the biggest goal of his career against Algeria in 2010.
How strange is it to see the World Cup unfold without you or the United States for the first time in, well, more than a decade?
Yeah. Well, since I was 16 I haven’t watched a World Cup as a fan. So, it’s been 20 years for me since I got to sort of sit back and relax and just enjoy it as a fan. It was definitely that this morning, mixed with a little bit of sadness. Just you know, knowing that the U.S. are not there again.
It will be tough for a lot of people to watch the World Cup and not think about the failure of missing it. Will there be a point in this World Cup where U.S. fans are going to be able to just watch what’s happening and appreciate it for what it is and not think about what could have been?
I mean, I can only speak for myself. It’s always gonna be in the back of your mind, so I don’t think I can remove that. I mean, you’ll get caught in each game and be excited, but you wanted that every four or five-day build-up to the U.S. game and the anxiety and excitement and fear and all that associated with it. We’ll keep saying it, but it’s disappointing and it’s sad, but it’s the reality. But the World Cup is still an incredible event. It’s still fun. It’s still people partying and enjoying it. It’ll just be missing that American pride piece.